Merican Music History Delta/Urban Blues

Music in the United States
Homework Assignment 6

Estimated Time Requirement 1.5 hours

Requirements: Typed, double-spaced


There are so many great examples of Delta and Urban blues that we cant listen to all of them in class. Below are some famous early blues artists along with some brief information about them and a link to one of their recordings. Links to lyrics are also included. After listening to the Delta Blues examples, answer questions 1 5. Then, go on to part two Urban Blues. Listen to the example and answer questions 6 8. I hope you enjoy these examples!

Part 1 Delta/Rural Blues

Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897-1930)
Made one of the first successful rural blues recordings
Spent much of his life as an itinerant musician in the south and Midwest
Made over 100 recordings
Listen: Black Snake Moan (1926)

Charley Patton (1887-1934)
Father of Delta Blues
Born of mixed African and Native American Heritage
Musicians traveled to Dockerys Plantation to learn the blues from Patton
Intense singing style accompanied by slide guitar in call and response
Slide guitar first developed in Hawaii, was incorporated into rural blues and country in late 1920s
Patton was an innovator of the technique
Also known as bottle neck style
Listen: Video demonstrating bottle neck style
Listen: Screamin and Hollerin the Blues
Link to Lyrics

More information on the Dockery Plantation

Son House (1902-1988)
Learned the blues from Patton and influenced Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters
Conflict: preacher vs. blues man (quit blues career multiple times)
Blues and Gospel have common origins but obviously different texts, many Christians, black and white, thought the blues was The devils music
Listen: Preachin Blues
Link to Lyrics

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
He was said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his talents at a lonely crossroads somewhere in the delta.
Johnson contributed to the myth by recording such songs as Hellhound on My Trail, Me and the Devil Blues, and Cross Road Blues.
Performed in juke joints and led an itinerant lifestyle that led to an early death by poisoning at 27.
His intense acoustic guitar style foretold the amplified sound of Chicago blues
Listen: Crossroad Blues
Listen: (Influence of Robert Johnson) Eric Clapton and Cream (Crossroads)
Link to Lyrics

Do all of these examples feature an AAB text pattern? If not, which example is different (provide the title)? Describe how it is different (if applicable). Be careful with your analysis. Dont look only at the formatting on the page as the lyrics may not be neatly organized! If you believe the examples all feature an AAB text pattern explain how the examples feature this structure by providing an example of a verse in AAB form from at least two of the songs.

Do the examples that use an AAB text pattern follow the musical pattern analyzed in class (Bessie Smiths Lost Your Head Blues) by featuring call and response between the voice and instrument? If so, provide an example by referring to one of the above videos and providing the timing on the video (the minute and seconds) where this feature (call and response) can be heard. If not, provide an example by referring to one of the above videos and providing the timing on the video where the first line of text (A) is immediately followed by the second line of text (A) without call and response.

How are the guitar styles in these examples different? See if you can put into words the different sounds these men get out of their guitars. Are there any special techniques that one uses that another didnt? Does one or more sound lighter than the others? Does one or more sound heavier or more aggressive than the others? These are just some things you can think about. Refer to all four examples.

What are the topics of the texts of these songs? Do they represent the topics that were examined earlier? Refer to the lyrics from at least three of the examples in your answer.

The lyrics to the song Black Snake Moan are tricky. Some people argue that the song is about Jeffersons personal demons (such as being blind) while others argue the song is sexual. What do you think are both interpretations something that would be likely in blues songs?

Part 2 Chicago (Urban) Blues

Tampa Red (1904 1981)
Listen: Its Tight Like That (1928)
Link to Lyrics

Memphis Minnie (1897-1973)
An early innovator on the electric guitar
When the Levee Breaks recalled the great Mississippi River flood of 1927
Listen: Looking the World Over

Which of these examples seems closest to the Delta/Rural blues tradition? (In other words, which example in Part 2 (Chicago/Urban Blues) sounds the most similar to the examples in Part 1 (Delta/Rural Blues)? Explain (by discussing text and musical features).

Which of these examples is the most different from the Delta/Rural blues tradition? Explain (by discussing text and musical features).

Out of all the examples, which one did you enjoy the most? Explain.

If the links above dont work, here are the original web addresses.

Black Snake Moan

Screamin and Hollerin the Blues

Lookin the World Over